As high school graduation approaches, I'm beginning to reflect on the past four years of my life. I remember the start of it all as if it was yesterday. As a kid, I was outgoing, an overachiever who always had something to talk about.
But high school was different. I developed a fear of expressing myself and felt trapped by those around me. The kid who would conduct interviews at family parties and converse with strangers on trains was gone. However, one thing that I never lost was passion.
The next few years brought a tidal wave of emotion. Vice President of student council, co-captain of the rugby team, school ambassador, student writer - these were all titles I called my own. The overachiever in me had returned, but my mind was still trapped.
I could not go a day without worrying about the problems of others or being made out to be the villain in others' stories. It seemed like every day there was a new story about my life, and lost friends became the result of these narratives.
I grew to keep my heart guarded at all times, and I rarely ever let anyone else in. I kept silent when my heart got torn out, because who would want to hear about the boys who hurt me? It must have been self-inflicted. When my mind became too much, I kept silent.
How could the girl who had it all figured out be depressed? Lonely was an understatement.
I had a place everywhere in life, but I never belonged anywhere.
That was my first lesson. I learned how to be comfortable being alone. I realized that being on your own gives you a chance to be introspective. It also teaches you how to love yourself. The way I saw it, sometimes we all become incredibly caught up in our own lives and in what people think of us. We forget how to live.
I realized it did not matter what others said, thought or even did to me. What mattered was the quality of my person. I taught myself to disregard the comments and thoughts of others. I put that energy into bettering myself. This is the power of mindset.
Through negativity, I also came to terms with the notion of light versus dark. Although we all are made up of good and bad, some of us have more of one than the other. The harshness of others showed me how detrimental it is to be negative in this world. Many people I encountered gravitated towards evil and exerted it upon others. There was a time when I would do the same.
However, I learned how freeing being positive can be. Happiness is something we must make a conscious effort to find every day. Being a beacon of light in a world full of darkness is the only way to achieve this.
Now I am no longer the 14-year-old too scared to speak in front of crowds. I am no longer the 16-year-old too scared to leave the house without makeup on.
In their place is an 18-year-old who has realized her place in the world.
I always knew I was going to be a brilliant person who would never settle for anything less than amazing.
Discovering that our worth is dependent on the way we treat the world, not the way it treats us, was a huge turning point in my life. Happiness is a choice. Greatness is a choice.
High school taught me to never let myself be treated as less.